We can no longer use the term loosely –America’s war against migrants is real, and the nation’s rulers mean to sweep the nation’s barrios the way Katrina swept the Black wards of New Orleans. And like the military operations visited upon the Black population of that city in the wake of the winds and floods, the war against migrants is a race war –one directed from the highest levels of power.
The recent strikes by ICE against migrant workplaces in dozens of cities across 26 states served as a crystal clear declaration: no matter what immigration bill passes in Washington, “enforcement” is the order of the day.
Whoever the government “legalizes,” it means to round up the rest in massive raids, ship them en masse to detention camps, then deport them, creating an atmosphere of mass repression and terror among brown people nationwide. Everyone with brown skin will be targeted. The only question still on the table is who will be directly subject to deportation.
The amnesty provisions of the bills being debated can only be summed up as part of a divide and conquer strategy. The government is laying its bet –that those who are offered a “path to legalization” will be too frightened of losing their “legal” status to resist the mass deportation of those still deemed “illegal.”
Such divisions are being foreshadowed today in the struggle over the May 1st Huelga General (general strike and boycott). The current division is based in denial –denial that the main aspect of government policy is a massive crackdown and ethnic cleansing –and that “inclusion” has little to do with it.
The recent mass raids are part of a Homeland Security / ICE plan called ENDGAME. The plan bluntly states the aim of the Bush administration: to deport all deportable migrants by the year 2012.
It’s in this context that the government wants pro-migrant groups to accede to a “compromise.” The simple truth is that those who are willing to take the bait -like the National Council of La Raza –are accepting terms of surrender in the war against migrants. In a Devil’s bargain they are willing to sacrifice as many as 7 million people in order to save some 5 million from the most direct impacts of mass raids, detention camps and deportations.
On May 1st these maneuvers will reach a dramatic climax. Those who oppose the General Strike – like the “We Are America” coalition in Los Angeles –are sending a message that resistance is futile; that we should fear an imaginary “backlash” more than the concrete plans of the government to attack our communities, and that the best we can hope for is the “mercy” of the racist Republican Right. They say they don’t want us to “provoke” mass repression or legislative defeat.
Fearful and trapped between the power of those on high and the power of those below, one section of the movement’s middle class leadership has changed its tune. No longer is their slogan a proud, defiant and joyful “!Si, Se Puede!” but a resigned and cautious “No se puede.” They want to slip the needle into the vein and put the newly awakened brown giant back to sleep.
But let’s make it plain, as Brother Malcolm used to say: Krystallnacht –the night of shattered glass that marked the onset of the persecution, mass deportation and ultimately the mass death of the targets of German fascism –was not a “backlash.” It was, rather, the implementation of an ongoing racist intent to persecute, exclude and permanently remove unwanted ethnic groups, and to do so by any means necessary.
The Gypsies, Slavs and Jews of Europe did nothing to “provoke” the Nazis; Native America did nothing to “provoke” Europe; African Americans did nothing to “provoke” lynching; the migrants of Australia did nothing to “provoke” the white population to carry out the recent anti-migrant race riots there.
Such persecutions operate on their own, internally reinforced racist logic. The only thing those who were targeted had to do was exist –and be vulnerable. And no one is more vulnerable than someone whose very existence is deemed “illegal.”
The race and vulnerability of most migrants to the US made persecution a foregone conclusion; the writing on the wall was clear from the moment a powerful group of racist lawmakers and their media allies made an electric spectacular out of a tiny cult of ultra rightists, vigilantes and “white nationalists” who took up arms and went migrant hunting on the border.
The agenda was always straightforward racist persecution enforced with guns –whether it’s ICE or the Minutemen makes no difference, just as there is no essential difference between the anti-Mexican Zoot Suit Riots of the 40s, the recent anti-immigrant pogroms in Australia, official mass roundups like Operation Wetback or the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW2.
The powers that be didn’t wait to be “provoked” by impolite behavior or economic boycotts before launching the recent mass raids.
In other words, nothing has changed except this: Since the mass pro-amnesty marches in Chicago and Los Angeles our potential for mass resistance against mass repression is now on the table as an absolute factor in the equation.
And that’s what the May 1st Huelga General is all about. It’s about our power and their vulnerability, instead of the other way around. Many of those calling for the general strike understand the power of resistance, and exactly how much is at stake.
Over a hundred actions in more than 60 cities are planned. Some –even in the mainstream Spanish language press, are calling on us to take as our banner not only the Black resistance of the 1960s, but to follow the example of the recent student strikes and immigrant rebellions in France, as well.
The future of millions lies in the balance on May 1st –and it is the future not only of brown people, but of Blacks, whites, and of everyone who has an investment in stopping the rapidly escalating trend toward fascism in the US. If we fail on that date, there will be no chance to reunite a divided movement. If we fail on that date, a new message will be written on the wall: there was ultimately no mass resistance to the racial scapegoating essential to the development of full blown fascism in the US.
The middle ground has fallen away.
On May 1st we will send one of two messages: “We Resist” or “We Surrender.”
It’s up to us to shape the future, to shape our own endgame.
Everything depends on what we choose.
JUAN SANTOS is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.
He can be reached at JuanSantos@Mexica.net